New research by Lancaster University has shown that austerity policies, beloved by the Conservative government, amount to “social murder”.
But don’t get your hopes up that this might lead to a huge policy change. This isn’t the first such report to come from a British university, and the Tories are likely to treat it with the contempt they have given the last.
The new report by Dr Chris Grover, head of the university’s sociology department, defines austerity as a form of structural violence – built into society in the form of unequal power and unequal life chances – that deepens inequalities and injustices and creates desperate poverty.
As a result, the report states, working class people face harm to their physical and mental well-being and in some instances are “socially murdered”.
Dr Grover gives examples of where social security austerity has led to a range of harms:
· an additional six suicides for every 10,000 work capability assessments done;
· increasing number of people Britain dying of malnutrition
· increasing numbers of homeless people dying on the streets or in hostels
He refers to the process as ‘violent proletarianisation’ – claiming that violent austerity is aimed at forcing people to do paid work, rather than being reliant upon benefits. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation by employers who have no reason not to pay the lowest wage possible.
Dr Grover is using the research to call on the government for fundamental change that removes the economic need for people to work for such low wages.
“The violence takes two forms,” said Dr Grover. “First it involves further economic hardship of already income-poor people.
“It causes social inequalities and injustices in the short term and in the longer term.
“Second, the poverty that violent proletarianisation creates is both known and avoidable.”
You can read his research here.
But don’t expect the Conservative government to pay the slightest bit of attention to it.
Remember when the universities of Oxford and Liverpool produced a report showing the work capability assessment used to decide whether people deserve Employment Support Allowance had caused a massive increase in mental illness among claimants? The Tories just shrugged it off.
I wrote at the time: “The research by Oxford University and Liverpool University shows that more than two-thirds of claimants who took the fake ‘medical’ test between 2010 and 2013 – 7,020 out of every 10,000 – received prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs afterwards.
“There were 2,700 cases of mental ill-health and – most damning of all, six suicides per 10,000 assessments. If these were all separate cases, that would leave just 274 people who, after the assessment, were only suffering with the illnesses they took into it.”
The mention of six suicides per 10,000 assessments corresponds with Dr Grover’s work, suggesting that the evidence base is at least partially the same.
That will not help prove the case to the Tories. They’ll only say suicides have many causes and should not be associated with a single element of a person’s life, blah blah blah. Oh, and that this evidence shows correlation, not causation – that is to say, there is no direct causal evidence linking the Conservative government’s benefit policy with mental illness and suicide, blah blah blah.
In fact, there is direct causal evidence – I’d say suicide notes by some of the deceased, directly blaming the government, are direct evidence. And there’s no evidence showing an increase in mental ill-health, malnutrition, deaths of the homeless and suicides of benefit claimants before the Tories forced austerity on those people.
But of course the government has other ideas. And we all know what Tories think of experts – remember what Michael Gove had to say about them?
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